Your body seems like it’s been taken over by alien beings. You haven’t slept for more than 3 hours at a time in weeks. You have already changed a lifetime of dirty diapers and everywhere you look, you see little onesies and itty-bitty baby socks. It may seem that now is not exactly the best time to think about starting some new routines.
However, as you’re swimming in this sea of uncertainty – when should your baby eat, how long is too long for a nap and more – routines can bring you consistency, peace and some order back to your chaotic world. So as not to overwhelm you, we’ve boiled it down to the Baby Basics:
- Bedtime Basics: It might sound a bit crazy to have a bedtime “routine” when all your child seems to do is sleep, but the routine is a great way to start the wind-down process, spend some quality time with your baby and indicate that sleepy time is just around the corner. You don’t have to have an elaborate schedule but have a few consistent things that you (or your husband) do each evening. Baths are always a great way to soothe your baby and transition from “daytime” to calming nighttime (Tips for Baby Baths). Once Baby is comfortably changed, moisturized and diapered up, reading with or singing to your child can be a wonderful way to end the day. It’s bonding time for you both, and nothing sounds more melodic to your baby than the sound of Mommy’s voice. Then finally, kiss your little one and put her down for a restful night’s sleep (at least for one of you). Other options – and again, you don’t have to check all the boxes – can include baby massage or saying prayers or whatever works for you. The bottom line is these simple activities, done on a regular basis will signal to your baby that bedtime is coming.
- Eating Essentials: As a mother, this is probably one of the most confusing areas of newborn care because every baby is different. Take your cues from your baby (rooting, fussing, crying), from your mom instincts and from your pediatrician. What’s important is that you try to eliminate some of the many distractions – toys, TV, loud noises, iPhones – and make this about you and your child. It’s also a good practice to get into as children grow, knowing that mealtimes are family time, a time to catch up and let the other distractions of the world be. Again, easier said than done, especially if you have other little ones at home while you’re feeding Baby. Just try to have a certain spot, a chair, maybe a cozy blanket or pillow so that you – and your child – are comfortable as you feed her. Try to encourage your other kiddos to do something quiet – books or stuffed animals – but know that this may not always (if ever) work. Just know that if you’re holding and feeding your baby, she will feel safe and secure in your arms, regardless if Older Brother is tearing down the family room around her! Again, routines are here to help, not impose more stress or Mom Guilt on you!
- Playtime: Now really? What is playtime to a little one who is only months old? It’s actually really important and a wonderful, fun part of being a mom! Playtime doesn’t last for hours or involve complex details but is simply wake time when your baby is engaged, stimulated and has the opportunity to explore the world around her. Playtime usually happens after your child has eaten — and don’t stress if it doesn’t last for very long. It can involve toys, wiggling around on the floor, tummy time, singing, dancing, or reading books (yes, there is rarely a time when books are not a great activity for your child). Keep in mind that this big world is new to your baby and it’s easy for them to have “had enough!” When she starts showing the signs that she’s tired or done, take that cue and move on to something else (like maybe diaper changing time!).
The bottom line is that Baby Routines are all about the basics – staying fed and watered, staying clean, sleeping and in between all this, having some playtime and using all those toys people gave you at your baby showers. Routines are meant to be a guideline, not an inflexible schedule and definitely not the end all-be all to you and your baby’s day. Life happens, things happen, so make sure your routine works for you. Some moms need the consistency and comfort of a stricter routine; for others, every day is different so the routine may have to involve more flexibility and cushions. And, as your baby grows and develops, your routines will change with that.
So find your “normal,” do what works for you, and most of all, put you and your family first. When you do that, good things are bound to happen!
* Egan, Kerry (American Baby). “Routines for a Happy Baby” Parenting.com. https://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/routines-for-a-happy-baby-a-5-step-guide/
* Latvala, Charlotte. “4 Most Important Baby Routines.” Parenting.com. http://www.parenting.com/article/4-most-important-baby-routines
* Spencer, Paula. “Routines Matter.” Parenting.com. http://www.parenting.com/article/finding-right-baby-routines